May 16, 2019 09:08 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no one knows that better than the subject of this week's Small Business Spotlight.
They're known as the "Powder Guys" because they found a way to create new products from unwanted, discarded produce.
"We're here to do good work and we're here to make good food," says Daniel Rao, president of Assured Edge Solutions, or AES. "We take the ugly fruit, the discarded fruit they don't want and turn it into a profitable revenue stream of ingredients and super food powders."
For Rao, becoming an entrepreneur happened by accident. He was consulting for an apple processor when he noticed some of the fruit was being rejected.
"I said, 'what do you do with those?' They said, 'nothing, we plow them under or we give them away,'" he explained. "I took them to my garage and put them in a dehydrator, made dried apple rings, put some into a coffee grinder and made apple powder, sold it at a local farm market and kind of off we went."
That was eight years ago.
Now, Rao and his COO Keir Meisner have built a successful agri-business drying and milling just about any fruit, vegetable or root you can think of.
"We do a lot of beets. We do a lot of sweet potatoes. We do a lot of zucchini. Believe it or not, we do a lot of horseradish root and burdock root, carrots, you name it," Rao said.
They outsourced the production work at first. Then, a couple of years ago, they moved their manufacturing operations to the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Farm in Geneva, an incubator for emerging new companies.
"Perfect fit," said Rao. "We could come in. We had to supply all the machinery, but the drains were here, the walls were here, the infrastructure was here."
On a typical day, they may process thousands of pounds of whole vegetables or fruits, and it starts with the dicing machine, which shreds the produce into strips. From there, the sliced produce then has to be dried.
"This is where it all happens. This is the dehydrator itself. We can dice, mill, but it all has to happen here," said Meisner, showing us the dehydrator.
Once dried, the fruit and veggies are milled into a powder then packaged up for companies like Love Beets or Wegmans.
"We do a lot with Wegmans here," said Rao. "We process all of their wheat grass from the organic farm."
AES also makes powdered ingredients for pasta and pet food companies. And the company has its own Healthier Way line of products like sweet potato flour. Recently, it began a frozen line of vegetable spirals at the urging of Wegmans.
"They were seeing how well vegetable spirals were doing in their fresh produce section, so they asked us if we'd consider doing it for frozen," Rao explained.
Rao says they continue to grow and find new ways to innovate.
It's a company built on sustainability, taking the cast-offs and turning them into profit.
"I see us being a leader in the ag business for small and medium-size companies to process for them. I'm never going to lose touch with the farmers we're working with and I'll never lose touch with the Cornell ties that we have," said Rao.
If you know of a small business we should highlight, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated: May 16, 2019 09:08 PM
Created: May 15, 2019 04:20 PM
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